Biography

The son of a Brooklyn upholsterer, baby-faced comic actor Buddy Hackett always claimed he was "born to be funny." Hackett was the boy who invariably blew his lines in the Holiday pageants and the overweight teen who accidentally stuck his foot in a water bucket during his first game with the high school football team. It was while serving in the Army that Hackett met the double-talking Chinese waiter who inspired him to create the most famous of his early nightclub routines. Hackett's first stand-up gig in Brooklyn led to additional work on the New York supper club Catskill resort circuits; he also guested on a very early (1945) TV program, Laff Time. His film debut was as the voice of a talking camel in the otherwise straightforward Arabian nights programmer Slave Girl (1947). He was signed to a Universal Pictures contract in 1953, then starred for two years in Broadway comedy Lunatics and Lovers. He played the title role in 1956 TV sitcom Stanley, which served to introduce Carol Burnett to America's televiewers; two years later, he became a regular on Jackie Gleason's Saturday night variety series. Hackett was most active in films during the years 1958 through 1968, appearing primarily in nitwit comedy-relief roles, but also delivering a solid dramatic performance in God's Little Acre. At the same time, his reputation in nightclubs soared, first because of his quick wit and gift for sudden improvisation, then later for his ability to spout out the dirtiest of material with the cherubic ingenuousness of a naughty first-grader. Perhaps it was this veneer of innocence that made Hackett an ideal "family" entertainer in such G-rated pictures as Everything's Ducky (1961), The Music Man (1962), and The Love Bug (1968). As late as 1989, he was still delighting the kiddie trade as the voice of Scuttle in the Disney animated feature The Little Mermaid. Among Buddy Hackett's many television credits was the 1978 biopic Bud and Lou, in which he offered a curiously unsympathetic interpretation of his idol, Lou Costello; ironically, back in 1954 Hackett had replaced an ailing Costello in the Universal slapstick comedy flick Fireman Save My Child. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi